How Roskam, Casten differ on immigration issues

Both candidates for U.S. Congress in the 6th District say the nation should come to an agreement about immigration.

Democratic challenger Sean Casten blames the lack of progress on a political climate that has "stoked" or "certainly inflamed some xenophobic tensions."

Republican incumbent Peter Roskam says it hasn't been fully addressed because some in Congress don't want it to be; they see the controversy as a benefit to their agendas and want to keep it going.

Each man says his ideas offer better solutions for 6th District communities, employers and immigrants, but the only topic on which they somewhat agree is the concept of a border wall. Both Casten, 46, of Downers Grove, and Roskam, 56, of Wheaton, say a full southern border wall between the U.S. and Mexico won't work.

Casten calls the proposed wall a "completely bogus solution" and a "virtually Stalinist construction project."

Roskam calls it a bad idea in some regions and a more effective one in others, but overall, "not persuasive to me."

"Walls do not work in the middle of open country," Roskam said during an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald.

What a wall can do - as can anything that provides a sense that the nation's borders are secure - is prepare people for the next steps in the debate toward more comprehensive policies about who can or can't enter the country, Roskam said.

"The next discussion has to include a guest worker program ..." he said, "particularly for 6th District manufacturers to be able to move forward."

But Casten thinks issues with employers filling needed positions can be addressed by adding a "skills test" and prioritizing potential entrants on their qualifications instead of their country of origin.

"Let's look at what kind of jobs the country is creating and where we have gaps," he said, "and let's provide preferential visas to people who fill those gaps."

An even bigger problem than employment gaps, Casten says, is visa overstays. He said the majority of people who are in the country illegally have outlasted their permission to be here, not crossed the border without permission to begin with.

If legislators took that into account, Casten says, they would deal with immigration rules differently by focusing on security and civil liberties.

Casten said he does not support the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, but he wishes federal agents would trust local law enforcement officials to collaborate with their counterparts in Mexico to counteract drug smuggling and crime.

Instead of more independence among federal and local law enforcement actions, Roskam said he doesn't want to create "an artificial barrier" between the two by allowing the designation of sanctuary cities or sanctuary states. In these areas, officials do not cooperate, or cooperate only in limited situations, to bring about deportations of low-priority immigrants who are being pursued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Within the 6th District, Cook County has a sanctuary-related policy, in the form of an ordinance on the books since 2011 that says the county requires a written agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reimburse the costs of any immigrant it detains on the agency's behalf, according to the nonpartisan nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies. Near the district but outside its borders - which stretch from Naperville to Tower Lakes in parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties - Chicago in 2012 enacted several criteria that must be met before the city will assist federal immigrations enforcers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has affirmed the city's status as a sanctuary city.

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